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Baroness Warsi: The ‘Made in Britain’ stamp is the most prestigious of designer labels

Baroness Warsi discusses diverse Britain’s global trading opportunities

Britain’s future trade opportunities lie beyond our immediate neighbours and our traditional trading partners. We need to engage with emerging and expanding economies across the world and I determined to do all I can to support businesses in their mission to branch out in their overseas trade.

Yorkshire is uniquely placed to take advantage of this shift. Places with strong international ties are crucial to our prosperity as a country. For example, last time I was in Bradford I argued that the town – with its diverse demographics and global links – should be at the forefront of seeking out new markets. In particular, Yorkshire and Pakistan have a natural connection through longstanding family and cultural connections and I believe that is something businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations can truly capitalise on.

So I was delighted yesterday to honour my pledge to local businesses by hosting a high-powered ministerial and business delegation from Pakistan to Yorkshire to meet with local businessmen and women. The event, held in Bradford, comes hot on the heels of the delegation’s visit to Scotland earlier this week, where they signed business deals and laid the groundwork for positive cooperation in the future.

The Governor of Sindh, Dr Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan, who is leading the delegation, was keen to meet up to discuss the scope for future trade between the UK and Pakistan. I met Dr Khan in Karachi in January and urged him to come to Yorkshire and explore opportunities for his country. The Governor told me he was keen to explore possibilities in education, in financial services, in food and telecommunications. This week Glasgow and Karachi have made this billion-pound bond; just think of the potential for businesses in our region.

These efforts are all part of our aim to ensure the UK’s business relations are as excellent as our political and cultural ties. The UK is already Pakistan’s fourth largest trading partner among OECD countries. Karachi is the economic powerhouse of the country and there are more than 100 British companies operating in Pakistan so the Governor’s visit to Yorkshire this week was particularly exciting.

The Prime Minister David Cameron wants to increase bilateral trade between our two countries to £2.5billion by 2015. For UK companies the fact that Pakistan has a pro-business regulatory regime, which allows 100% remittance of capital and profits in many sectors, is a real incentive, as is the fact that there is a growing presence of UK companies in health, education and retail.

People may think this government is all about cutting the deficit. I don’t blame them; we’ve thrown everything into putting Britain on a stable financial footing to keep our credit rating credible and our mortgage rates low – already cutting Labour’s mammoth deficit by a quarter in just two years.

 But the fact is that we are equally committed to growing our country out of the debt crisis.  The Prime Minister has said that it isn’t just his job and the Foreign Secretary’s job to bang the drum for trade abroad – it’s the job of each and every minister in this government and I’m delighted to play my part in that. We have six full time trade and investment officers in Pakistan to support UK businesses through bespoke market information, introductions, identifying opportunities and lobbying on their behalf.  Together, we are fixing the sign firmly to the door: Britain’s open for business.

Capitalising on the new global economy is about more than forging new trading ties, it’s also about having something to offer. Britain is truly getting back its manufacturing mojo; for the first time since 1976 we are a net exporter of cars; we sell vodka to Poland, cheese to France, tacos to Mexico – even canoes to the Eskimos! So it was appropriate that I was also in Yorkshire this week to talk to an innovative group in the textile industry.

The textiles industry, which once thrived in northern England, now accounts for just 0.2 per cent of the UK economy. In 2006 alone, 10,000 jobs in the textile and clothing industries were lost. The number of UK textile jobs halved in the previous decade. Yet nonwovens are the fastest growing sector in the textiles industry.

The Nonwoven Network, a niche market in the textile industry, are demonstrating how to survive in the new global economy. By developing new technologies they are showing that an industry of the past can weatherproof itself for the future and, as a result, are the fastest growing sector of the textile world.

From my work on behalf of the government around the world, I know that the Made in Britain stamp is the most prestigious of designer labels. We need more businesses to take the lead from this sector of the textiles industry and to keep innovating and developing. Only then can we fulfil our mission to put Britain on the map for the things it makes.

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